FBI: We're Going to Start Counting Deaths by Cop Better
New system will list deadly encounters by gun, Taser, physical force
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2015 12:33 PM CST
FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(Newser) – The FBI is finally on the case: The agency is revamping its data-collection system to more accurately portray how many deaths come at the hands of police officers each year, the Guardian reports, giving itself a pat on the back as part of the impetus behind the initiative. Officials say the new system, which will be in place by 2017, will publish stats on encounters that cause death or serious injury to civilians using blunt weapons, stun guns, and physical force, per the Washington Post. Senior FBI official Stephen Fischer concedes to the Guardian that the agency had "identified a need for more robust and complete information about encounters between law enforcement officers and citizens that result in a use of force." In October, FBI chief James Comey had called it "ridiculous," "embarrassing," and "unacceptable" that papers like the Guardian and the Washington Post had more comprehensive statistics on these violent encounters than his own agency.

Although the FBI posts annual figures from the country's 18,000-plus law enforcement agencies for "justifiable homicides," it's an honor system: Police departments aren't required to report how many people were killed by cops, the Guardian notes. This can cause issues when highly populated states like New York and Florida provide incomplete data or sometimes none at all, the Wall Street Journal has noted. Fischer notes to the Guardian that the FBI will also start publishing "such details as age, sex, and race of the officers and subjects" and the circumstances surrounding each incident—info it's been collecting for years but never published with the annual figures. "Frankly, I'm glad to see the FBI … catching up to what the people have been demanding for a long time," a member of an Obama task force on modern policing tells the Guardian. Not that the system will be perfect: The Post notes that reporting will still be voluntary, as the FBI can't legally force departments to do so. (The feds are now probing the Chicago PD.)